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Britain mulls ban on smartphones, iPads in classrooms

IANS  |  London 

With an aim to cutting down on technology use in classrooms, the British government has appointed government expert and former teacher Tom Bennett to review the impact of tablets and smartphones on school children.

"An investigation into how to train teachers to tackle poor pupil behaviour will be expanded to cover wider issues such as the use of mobile phones and other devices in schools," announced Schools Minister Nick Gibb in a statement on Sunday.

"Since 2010, we have given teachers more power to ensure good behaviour in the classroom.

"But we need to make sure the advice we give to schools and the approaches being used across the country are fit for the 21st century when even primary school pupils may be bringing in phones or tablets," Gibb said.

"That is why we have taken the decision to expand Tom Bennett's review to look at how teachers can tackle bad behaviour," he added.

In June, Bennett led a review into how initial teacher training prepares teachers for tackling low-level disruption in class.

Now, his role will be expanded to look at all of the challenges of managing behaviour in 21st-century schools.

"Whether it is the use of mobile phones in schools or the attitudes of parents to their child's behaviour in class, we will now probe deeper into behaviour more generally to ensure that no child has to put up with having their disrupted by misbehaviour," Gibb noted.

Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has already called for more schools to ban children from bringing phones into lessons -- a major issue that Tom Bennett will now review, the statement read.

"Technology is transforming society and even classrooms -- but all too often we hear of lessons being disrupted by the temptation of the smartphone," said Bennett.

"Learning is hard work and children are all too aware of this. So when they have a smartphone in their pocket that offers instant entertainment and reward, they can be easily distracted from their work," he emphasised.

Appropriately used, technology can offer opportunities to enhance the educational experience of pupils -- devices such as tablets and smartphones are used by many schools to aid teaching.

Teachers, however, have reported that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption.

In May, the London School of Economics found that banning mobile phones from classrooms could benefit students' learning by as much as an additional week's worth of schooling over an academic year.

The report found that banning phones would most benefit low-achieving children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"I will now probe deeper into this issue and behaviour challenges more broadly to uncover the real extent of the problem and see what we can do to ensure all children focus on their learning," Bennett announced.

First Published: Mon, September 14 2015. 14:56 IST